Murder in a Nice Neighborhood by Lora Roberts Book Review

Murder in a Nice Neighborhood by Lora Roberts Book Review

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

Murder in a NIce Neighborhood by Lora Roberts Book Review

Series: Liz Sullivan Mystery Book 1
Author: Lora Roberts
Publisher: Fawcett Books (May 1994)
EAN: 9780449148914
Page Count: 211 pages
Format: paperback & ebook

Target Age Group: adults
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1

Synopsis:

Liz Sullivan was innocently enjoying a pear and a book when Pigpen Murphy accosted her. Liz could just never get it through to Pigpen that she wasn’t interested and never would be interested, bad smell notwithstanding. It is true that she had to be a little more forceful than usual, slamming the door shut on her home, her snug little VW bus, and Pigpen’s hand just happened to be in the way at the time, but was that any reason for him to smash a fist through her window? Things just got worse when Liz woke up to find a very dead Pigpen underneath her bus the next morning.

Detective Paul Drake obviously regarded Liz as his prime suspect and a strong flight risk, due to her highly mobile “house.” Liz greatly resented Detective Drake prying into her affairs and ripping apart her carefully constructed life in Palo Alto, CA. Liz liked living in the Bay area and didn’t want to move, but she knew that it would only be a matter of time before her abusive ex-husband would show up. Still, she couldn’t leave before the police investigation was cleared up, so Liz continued researching her new article, teaching a Senior Center Writer’s Workshop, swimming at the local pool and helping out the temporarily incapacitated Claudia Kaplan. However, as Liz continued to maintain her innocence, more bodies began to pile up with another vagabond and a sweet old lady being murdered in the same manner. And Liz was the last one reported to see them alive…

Review:

Murder in a Nice Neighborhood by Lora Roberts was a thoroughly enjoyable mystery and a great start to the Liz Sullivan Mystery series. I found the main character to be very interesting and unique in that she was homeless and what most would consider a vagrant, but she led her life in a normal fashion and had a good reason for traveling around. I also loved her views of the other characters in the book and the author really seemed to have fun with certain stereotypes such as Claudia Kaplan, an author who still mourned her husband’s passing 10 years previously and was sharper than a tack; Vivien, a sweet, old, retired lady just barely making ends meet, but still determined to live out her life the way she wanted; Delores Mitchell, the all-too-perfect loan manager who never had a hair out of place and was just so much fun to tease; Ted, the ambitious real estate agent who was ready to pour on the charm, anytime, anyplace; and Paul Drake, the constantly disheveled detective who seemed like a bumbler, but was really a great investigator and a host of others. I enjoyed reading about the characters more than learning about the mystery, actually. I didn’t think the mystery was that difficult to solve and had suspicions pretty early on as to whodunit, but the book was still enjoyable and very well written. Recommended for fans of mysteries in the cozy genre.

Content:

This mystery contains descriptions of dead bodies, but nothing too detailed, graphic or gross. The main character fled an abusive relationship and fears her ex-husband will hunt her down so there is quite a bit of discussion of spousal abuse and fear in the book. Liz is also homeless so you learn quite a bit about the homeless community in central California. There is a touch of romance between the main character and the detective, as is usual in cozy mysteries, but this is very clean and doesn’t really get past the thought stage. Very little bad language and very clean. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Edwin of the Iron Shoes by Marcia Muller Book Review

Edwin of the Iron Shoes by Marcia Muller Book Review

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

Edwin of the Iron Shoes by Marcia Muller Book Review

Series: Sharon McCone Mystery Book 1
Author: Marcia Muller
Publisher: Mysterious Press (April 1990)
EAN: 9780445409026
Page Count: 224 pages
Format: paperback

Target Age Group: adults
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Private eye Sharon McCone was hired by All Souls Cooperative, a San Francisco legal services plan, to discover who was vandalizing a small street of antique shops when one of the antique dealers was found murdered in her own shop. Sharon had no idea who had killed Joan Albritton, a pleasant older woman whose main fault was talking to the dressmaker’s dummy, the stuffed German shepherd, and the little boy mannequin she kept in her shop, but she didn’t feel confident in the police’s ability to discover the killer. Especially after she met the unpleasantly patronizing Lieutenant Marcus who was in charge of the case. Uncertain of whether she would be paid for her work or not, but refusing to allow Joan Albritton’s killer to go free, Sharon starts her investigation.

Suspects abound, with Charlie, the junkman who ran the shop across the street from Joan’s, at the forefront. Charlie was Joan’s former lover, recently jilted for a wealthier man, and he was the one who had discovered the body and called the police. Then there was Cara Ingalls, a real estate mogul with ice running through her veins. She made no secret of the fact that she was glad that Joan was gone so that she could buy the land and force the antique dealers out. Of course, Cara was not the only one trying to buy the land so that motive could apply to any number of real estate speculators. And then there was the slimy bond bailsman and the slick “antique-style” dealer who kept popping up at every corner. Not to mention the puzzling Lieutenant Marcus, who was grateful for Sharon’s help and then pushing her aside the next. As Sharon takes more and more risks, she comes closer to solving Joan’s death, but she also comes closer to being murdered herself…

Review:

Edwin of the Iron Shoes is the first Sharon McCone Mystery and it was just okay. The book was well written, but the story was pretty simplistic and the characterization was pretty inconsistent. Sharon McCone is billed as this hard-boiled female private investigator, but I thought that she was pretty stupid myself. She took a lot of unnecessary risks and managed to solve the case more by being the only one around then following the clues properly. Also, I know that this book was written quite some time ago (I have the 1977 edition), but I have a hard time believing that the police ever invited female private investigators to look over the crime scene while the body was still there. With a stronger plot, more believe characters and some additional detail, this mystery would have been much better. Hopefully the series improves as it goes along…

Content:

This is an old-school mystery with a hard-boiled private investigator. There are descriptions of dead people and death-defying leaps of logic, but nothing explicit or gory. There are no CSI-like descriptions of any type of fluids or cryptic clues, just a lot of talking to people and making deductions (whether mentally or in a notebook). Safe and clean. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

The Slayer’s Affair by C. R. Allman Book Review

The Slayer’s Affair C R Allman

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

The Slayer's Affair by C. R. Allman

Author: C. R. Allman
Publisher: PublishAmerica (May 2002)
EAN: 9781591293088
Page Count: 198 pages
Format: paperback

Target Age Group: adult
My Rating:

Synopsis:

Samantha witnessed the brutal death of her parents at the tender age of 5. She heard their screams and saw the monsters ripping their bodies to shreds and draining their blood. Samantha tried to attack them, but one vampire held her off and left her locked in the closet. No one ever believed her story about the way her parents died, but Samantha knew that the monsters were all too real.

Twenty-one years later, Samantha is one of the most feared and respected vampire slayers in all of America. She leads a crew of slayers, tracking down and killing any nests of vampires that they can find. Until one night her impatience gets the best of her. Davis, her second in command, tries to persuade Samantha to wait until the following day to go after a household of vampires, saying that it is too close to darkness, but Samantha chooses not to heed his advice. She has been tracking this group of vampires for months and so goes out to kill them by herself. It turns out that it IS too close to darkness and Samantha is trapped by 3 of the surviving vampires that she didn’t have time to kill. Samantha expects to be drained of her blood at any moment, but one of the female vampires spots a mark on her wrist. Another vampire’s mark. Samantha has no idea what she is talking about, but she is forced to wait for this other vampire to appear.

The next evening, Montague, the undeclared ruler of the undead, shows up in her room. He is the same vampire who locked her in the closet when she was 5. Montague has merely been waiting for Samantha to grow old enough for him to be able to claim her. He admired and respected her spunk and courage as a child and now admires the beautiful woman that she has become. Twenty-one years ago, Montague injected a small dose of his blood into Samantha, not enough to turn her into a vampire, but enough, hopefully, that she can bear a daylight-walking vampire child…

Review:

The Slayer’s Affair by C. R. Allman had such great promise. A dark, seductive vampire who comes to claim his mate and a determined vampire slayer who has killed countless numbers of his people. Sparks fly and arguments ensue, right? Wrong. Samantha goes from being a spunky slayer to a wimpy doormat. Right after she meets Montague, she is simply overcome with passion and cannot deny him anything. She believes anything he says and doesn’t seem to care about anything else, and she is not under glamour! Her fellow slayers seem to believe everything Samantha says and have no problems with the fact that she used to be the first one into the house to start killing vampires and now she waits outside in the van. It wasn’t believable for me. It was also too good to be true that all of the vampires instantly loved Samantha and forgave her for all of the vampire murders after she became Montague’s consort.

I found the characters to be rather flat and unbelievable. The dialogue was extremely stilted and amateurish. There was a lot of dialogue between characters that essentially equated to, “okay, now I am going to go and do this and then I will do this…” They weren’t talking to the other characters, the author was trying to inform the reader about what was happening. The descriptions were also inadequate, with sparse physical characteristics laid out for the main characters and little or no description of locations. The book was grammatically correct, which was nice, but it is quite obviously self-published. C. R. Allman has some good ideas for a story, but she still needs to develop a good writing style with a better way of developing her ideas. I got so frustrated with the childlike writing quality of the book and horrible, flat characters that I couldn’t even finish it.

Content:

There is a lot of blood and gore in this book. Parents are torn apart, drained & killed in front of their children. Humans are staking, beheading and torching vampires. Vampires see humans as cattle and drain them of blood to stay alive. The leads have a passionate relationship, but there is little detail as to actual sex taking place between them so at least the reader is not subjected to poorly written intimate scenes. Poorly written with little good to say about it, this book is recommended for no one. Please skip.

The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl Book Review

The Chocolate Cat Caper (Chocoholic Mysteries #1) by Joanna Carl

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

The Chocolate Cat Caper (Chocoholic Mystery #1) by Joanna Carl

Series:Chocoholic Mysteries Book 1
Author: JoAnna Carl
Publisher: Signet Books (March 2002)
EAN: 9780451205568
Page Count: 240 pages
Format: paperback

Target Age Group: adult
My Rating: https://debbiewinkler.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb17.png

Synopsis:

Lee McKinney has given up her career as a Texas trophy wife and moved back to the small town of Warner Pier, Wisconsin, where she spent the summers cashiering in her aunt’s TenHuis Chocolade shop. Lee is helping out her Aunt Nettie by working at the store and balancing the company books while studying for her CPA exam. She knows that the store, while doing well, needs all of the extra summer business it can get to stay profitable so when a large order comes over from Clementine Ripley, Warner Pier’s wealthiest and most hated resident, Lee urges her aunt to accept it regardless of her personal feelings on the matter.

Lee comes to regret this decision as Clementine Ripley dies the night of her party due to cyanide poisoning in the amaretto truffles that her Aunt Nettie provided. Things look even worse when Lee finds out that her Aunt Nettie blames Clementine Ripley for the death of her husband, which definitely provides her with a motive and she certainly had the means! But Lee quickly discovers that her Aunt Nettie was certainly not the only one who held a grudge against the infamous defense lawyer. There is Marion McCoy, Clementine’s personal assistant, who ran her life, but didn’t seem to really like her; Joe Woodyard, Warner Pier’s golden boy and the subject of Lee’s teenage crushes, the former Mr. Clementine Ripley who inherits the entire estate; the Police Chief, who retired to Warner Pier after Clementine Ripley ruined his career in the big city, but couldn’t escape her shadow; Mayor Hererra, who looked like a fool when Clementine Ripley backed out of her deal to sell her land to the city to build an observation facility; not counting the town’s notorious gossip Greg Glossop, Clementine’s slick and charming investment partner and every scumbag that Clementine Ripley kept out of jail…

Review:

The Chocolate Cat Caper is Book 1 in the Chocoholic Mysteries Series and it was cute and light, but it was a bit of a disappointment. Lee is a charming heroine, but she was pretty ditzy and, while her habit of saying the wrong word when she is nervous (which is often) was endearing and laugh-out-loud funny at times, she just isn’t very bright. She solved the mystery by being in all of the right places at the right times (or wrong places at the right times), but there was no real deduction on her part and her attempts to question other suspects in the murder were just laughable. The lack of mystery aside, the chocolate facts were entertaining and I liked reading about how they made the chocolate for the store and the other little details that the author put in. I will definitely check out the next book in the series, but I hope that it has a better mystery in it.

Content:

This is a cozy mystery, which means that it is not as hardcore as regular mysteries and there is not a lot of detail (police, autopsy, body condition when found, etc.) in regards to the dead person. There is little to no description of the actual body in regards to the murder and very little official police detail provided as the heroine is not at all involved with the police department. The plot deals with divorce, falling out of love, trophy wives and husbands, bribery, criminals escaping justice, and a callous defense attorney (the victim), but these topics are delivered and dealt with a great deal of humor and are just present as part of normal life. There is some potential romantic interest, but nothing happens. This mystery is very clean, very safe and is perfect for even the most squeamish of mystery readers. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz (The Arcane Society Book #5) Book Review

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz

Series: The Arcane Society Book 5
Author:Jayne Ann Krentz
Publisher: Jove Books (December 2009)
ISBN: 9780515147384
Page Count: 480 pages
Format: paperback

Target Age Group: adult
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz Book Synopsis:

Bodyguard Luther Malone expected a little old librarian to show up in Hawaii when he reported for his latest mission. What he got was young, spunky Grace Renquist. Grace expected a hulking brute who relied on his physical prowess to protect her. What she got was a laid back, sexy hunk with a cane.

The mission was supposed to be simple: Luther would protet Grace while she examined the aura of a suspected murderer who was staying at a Hawaiian resort. Of course, nothing turns out as expected. The murderer is a member of a covert paranormal group experimenting with psychic-power boosting drugs. A powerful parahunter is also at the resort watching the murderer. A psychotic singer is on the loose, killing people with her voice. And Grace has finally found someone whose touch she can tolerate – Luther’s…

The Arcane Society Series Update:

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz is book #3 in the contemporary Arcane Society Series and book #5 in the series if you count the 2 books written under Krentz’s historical pen name, Amanda Quick. It is fast-paced, full of action and has great characters.

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz can be read as a stand-alone novel, but does have a few previously introduced characters in it from other Arcane Society books. For those who have read the other books in the Arcane Society series, these little glimpses of other characters add a bit of fun, but they do not detract from first-time readers’ enjoyment.

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz Book Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed the two lead characters in Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz. Luther is the first non-parahunter hero Krentz has used in her contemporary segment of the Arcane series. Instead, Luther is an aura manipulator and inspires feelings of fear, happiness, tiredness, etc. in someone’s mind. He relies much more on his mental powers than his physical prowess, which was a refreshing change (though there is nothing wrong with a sexy brute of a hero in a romance book!).  I thought aura manipulation was a unique and imaginative power to have.

Grace, our heroine, reads auras and can “see” violence, personality traits and talents. She has a violent past and is strong willed, but very alone. Sparks fly from the moment Luther and Grace meet and it was great to see their relationship develop throughout the book. It was also wonderful to see a heroine who stayed put when the hero had a rational reason for asking her to do so!

The search for the evil Nightshade organization continues and I am excited to read the next installment in the Arcane Society series!

Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz Book Content:

This is a contemporary romance novel with the requisite bedroom scenes so, yes, there are descriptions of sex.  The scenes are very tastefully done and are not overly graphic.  They are also very easy to skip if you are not interested in reading these sections.  There are a few psychotic killers in this book so there is also quite a bit of violence.  Several people are murdered.  There are no graphic descriptions of the bodies.  The bad guys use drugs to manipulate their powers so a lot of the villains are dealing with withdrawal and addiction.  The requisite HOA (“happily ever after”) is present so romance readers will not be disappointed.  Depending on what kind of content you allow your teenagers to read, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and up.